The “Routine” Staging of Our Discourse

For the past six and a half years Democrats, myself included, have been screaming foul over the Bush administrations propagandistic streak. From Jeff Gannon and Armstrong Williams all the way to the most recent case of the staged FEMA news conference, the left has been rightfully enraged over these practices. So it comes as a bit of a shock to me to see the sheer lack of disgust over this little bit of newspeak perpretrated by the Democratic party Presidential front runner.

Hillary Clinton stopped at a biodiesel plant in Newton, Iowa, last week to see alternative fuels in the making and to drive home the week’s campaign theme of her energy plan. After a tour, the candidate took questions from the crowd.She called on a young woman. “As a young person,” said the well-spoken Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff, “I’m worried about the long-term effects of global warming. How does your plan combat climate change?”

“Well, you should be worried,” Clinton replied. “You know, I find as I travel around Iowa that it’s usually young people that ask me about global warming.”

There’s a good reason for that, too. The question was a plant, totally rigged in advance, like a late-night infomercial. Just before the public forum a Clinton staffer had chosen the young woman, a student at Grinnell College, and asked her to ask that specific question.

Now I don’t pretend to think that this practice is limited to Senator Clinton, as a matter of fact the LA Times piece quoted above goes on to give us a taste of the potential scope of the problem.

Although other campaigns are righteously denying it, virtually every professional presidential campaign plants questions. It’s a routine part of preparation for the advance people staging every event.Not every question is planted, as you can tell from the weird ones that sometimes pop up. Most are arranged with more sophistication than grabbing a passing college student. They’re done in advance with known local supporters who can be trusted and, frankly, are flattered by their moment in the limelight addressing the possible next president in front of friends. They want the world to think it’s their own question.

A twist on this strategy is for a candidate’s team to smuggle one of its supporters into an opponent’s event to ask an embarrassing question while the cameras roll. Remember the confrontation a few weeks ago when Clinton accused one persistent questioner of being an opposition plant? And then she apologized later.

[Emphasis added]

The problem I have here is not only with the general dishonesty of this practice but more with the fact that it is simply a cheap and lame way to try and drive the discourse in your favor. Electing a candidate for public office – particularly the Office of the President of the Unites States – should be about finding the right person to deal with the issues that are pertinent. Sadly, this practice just proves that politicians – both Republicans AND Democrats – are more concerned with creating their own reality rather than working within the reality based community.

The fact that Hillary was caught planting questions should have set off alarm bells but instead it is waived off as no big deal. I am here to tell you that until we stop allowing politicians and media personalities to define our reality we will continue to get what we deserve, crappy leadership.

3 Responses to “The “Routine” Staging of Our Discourse”

  1. Jeff Gannon says:

    You have written something that is factually incorrect and purposely defamatory. Let me educate you:

    1. I worked as a White House correspondent for over two years writing 500 articles for a daily readership of over half a million (better than many newspapers).
    2. Accepted into membership in the National Press Club in 2006.
    3. Published book in September 2007.
    4. Seated at head table at National Press Club luncheon featuring Lynne Cheney, joined by Vice President Dick Cheney in October 2007.
    5. Book featured at National Press Club book fair in November 2007.
    6. Accepted into membership in the Society of Professional Journalists in November 2007.

  2. Jeff,

    What a surprise. Let me say first that I can not see how what I wrote was either factually incorrect or purposely defamatory. What I wrote about you was this,

    “or the past six and a half years Democrats, myself included, have been screaming foul over the Bush administrations propagandistic streak. From Jeff Gannon and Armstrong Williams all the way to the most recent case of the staged FEMA news conference, the left has been rightfully enraged over these practices.”

    Now, if I understand defamation correctly it goes something like this; a false statement about a person which causes that person to suffer harm. I think the record is pretty clear as to your participation in those press briefings. I would characterize it as simply a man with insider connections lofting softballs to the President. Were you a plant? I can’t say as I don’t know but what I can say is that you certainly asked the questions the White House wanted to answer.

    The context of my post is simply that the practice of planting questions, planting questioners or outright paying journalists to publish favorable pieces is lame. There is no reason why any elected official should play PR rep. in a press conference whether that official be the President of the United States or a Senator seeking that office.

    Now it is nice to see that two years since your resignation from Talon you are now a published and credentialed journalist. Congratulations. That being said, I don’t see how this post could have possibly caused you any harm.

    Good luck with your book.

  3. Yeah, I imagine there’s little harm we could have added given all the mess you’ve been through already. It’s like throwing a bucket of dirt on Mt. Everest.

    Anyway, yeah, good luck with the book, send us a copy, we’ll give it a fair and balanced review!


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